(ORDO NEWS) — Legends say that in the 17th century, Native Americans sold Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of beads and trinkets. But is this story true?
The legend seems implausible, but 400 years ago, only beavers lived in Manhattan.
In 1609, Henry Hudson was sailing down the river in present-day New York that would one day bear his name. The Englishman was an emissary from the Dutch and was sent to chart a new route to Asia, where the Dutch West India Company wanted to expand its trade.
Hudson ultimately failed in this task, but his voyage laid the foundation for the Dutch colonization of New York.
There were beavers in 17th-century New York, a fact that Hudson told the Dutch. This hastened the arrival of thousands of people from Holland, who called their new home “New Amsterdam” and began trading in animal furs.
At that time, the velvety skins of beavers were valued in Holland and used to make hats: a lucrative trade became the basis of an ongoing relationship between the Dutch and the indigenous people of the region, including the Lenape and Mahican peoples.
The Indians traded hundreds of thousands of skins in exchange for metal, cloth and other valuable items from Holland.
But in the decades that followed, there were reports of another trade that went far beyond beaver skins and eventually shaped New York’s history.
The story goes that in 1626, the natives sold the entire island of Manhattan to the Dutch for a tiny sum: just $24 in beads and “trinkets”. This legend took on such great importance in the following centuries that it served as “evidence of the birth of New York.”
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